Garages have changed a lot over the past 40 years. Back in the early 1970s, a one-car garage was the norm, with perhaps enough room left to squeeze in a small workshop, if you were lucky.
Today, two-car garages are standard and many homeowners chose to build garages that will accommodate three or four cars and/or a boat. Others extend the basic garage footprint to provide space for storage, a laundry, home office, guest bedroom or teenage hangout. These days, a garage can easily cover the same floor area as a standard new house would have back in the 70s.
Even if you go for a basic model, building a garage will certainly make life more convenient. It will also increase the value of your property if built well, in a style that complements your house.
So what do you need to think about before you start your garage project?
Is it legal?
Check with your council on the planning and building regulations for your area. If you're planning to use the space above the garage, you may have to consider how this will infringe on height-to-boundary regulations.
What's it for?
Few of us use our garages solely for parking but if you plan to, consider the size of your vehicles and/or boat. SUVs and boats are higher and wider than standard vehicles so the building's width, door and wall heights will have to allow for this.
Workspaces, laundries and garden storage require extra space, which will also affect the shape and size of the building. They also may require installation of electricity, plumbing, wall linings, heating and/or insulation, all of which are cheaper to do during construction. Think about door and window placement and, if you want storage above the garage, consider using roof trusses that leave the centre clear. If planning a room above the garage you'll need to work out the best place for a staircase.
Attached or detached?
Attached garages are more convenient, especially in rain or snow, but they do restrict the design possibilities for your garage. Attached garages often dominate the front facade of the house, considerably reducing its street appeal, but you can choose a position that is angled or set back from house if they are detached. Having a detached garage can mean it will be easier to extend up or out without infringing on boundary regulations. It can also free up valuable garden space that might be better used for an outdoor living courtyard or planting.
Does it fit in?
Ensuring your garage complements the house and other buildings in the street is not difficult if you use the same building forms (eg, pitched roof) and exterior finishes, including window and door joinery. Doors can also be custom made with materials that relate to existing cladding.
How do you transition?
When a garage is attached to the side of a house most people tend to enter their homes through a connecting door rather than their front entrance. Often this means walking through an uninspiring utility, storage or laundry area to get inside. Regardless of whether your garage is attached or detached, think about making the connection between it and the house as welcoming and attractive as possible so your spirits lift as soon as you get out of the car.
Who will build it?
Building a garage is not beyond the capabilities of anyone with good DIY skills, particularly if you go for a kitset. However some aspects of the project, such as laying the concrete foundation pad and electrical wiring, may still have to be allocated to subcontractors.
For those with little building knowledge, contracting a professional builder is a must. Try to get at least two builders to quote and if the cost comes in much steeper than you anticipated consider a carport instead?